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Wahpeton schools facing enrollment fluctuations
No consistency; declines, increases and stability district-wide

Wahpeton Public Schools reached the midseason of the 2019-2020 education year with 1,218 students, 21 fewer than it began the year with.

Superintendent Rick Jacobson and the Wahpeton School Board viewed the latest information Wednesday, Jan. 8. Current enrollment is slightly higher than what the district ended the 2018-2019 year with, an estimated 1,205 total students.

“We don’t know if the migrant population that left in November is going to come back in the spring. Enrollment is always a concern,” Jacobson said.

The latest information shows a pattern of monthly enrollment declines, but also patterns of increases and stability.

Zimmerman Elementary gained six students total between Aug. 30-Dec. 20, 2019. Between Oct. 31-Dec. 20, enrollment remained consistent with 20 preschoolers and 97 kindergarteners. In August, Zimmerman had 111 total students. In December, the school had 117 students.

Wahpeton Elementary, which ended August with 428 students, ended December with 421 students. Enrollment for grades 1-5 tended to have monthly fluctuations ranging from the loss of two total students to the gain of three total students. The third and fifth grades had consistent enrollment in November and December, 86 for the former and 77 for the latter.

Wahpeton Middle School, which ended August with 316 students, ended December with 311 students. The largest fluctuations affected the seventh grade, which ranged from 107 students in August to 103 students in November and December. In September and October, 106 students were enrolled.

Wahpeton High School saw the largest decline, from 380 students in August to 363 students in December. Enrollment declined by one student between August-September, six students between September-October, nine students between October-November and one student between November-December. Fluctuations occurred each in each grade.

WPS37, consisting of students who are placed outside the district, also saw fluctuations. There were four students at the end of August and September, three students on Oct. 31, five students on Nov. 27 and six students on Dec. 20.

“Even this week, we’ve heard there’s been movement out (of the district) again,” Jacobson said. “How much in? We’ll be interested to see at the end of the month what happens.”

Jacobson delivered an update from Dan Rood, Jr., director of the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center (SRCTC), regarding the ongoing expansion of the Wahpeton Agriculture Education Facility adjacent to the high school.

“Over half of the concrete floor has been poured. I think the idea is that they’re going to pour the last section of it (Thursday, Jan. 9),” Jacobson said.

The $650,000 project is possible through a partnership of Wahpeton Public Schools, SRCTC and North Dakota State College of Science. The facility is expected to be completed by the end of the 2019-2020 education year.

In other news, Wahpeton’s board unanimously accepted the resignations of John Norton as middle school custodian and Julie Prochaska as substitute paraprofessional and substitute teacher for the district. The board also approved the hiring of Jordan Ralph as middle school custodian, Colin Brownlee as seventh grade boys basketball coach and Preston Kath as eighth grade boys basketball coach.

Board Director Jake Kubela was absent from the meeting.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Wahpeton High School, 1021 11th St. N. in Wahpeton.

Food backpack program receives record-breaking donation
Nearly $13K raised by cantata; nearly $30K since 2015

Emotions and pride were high when proceeds from the Community Choir and Orchestra’s 25th annual Christmas cantata were donated to the food backpack program serving the Twin Towns Area.

Tracy Brantl, Wahpeton, has been coordinator of the Richland Wilkin Food Pantry since Dec. 1, 2019. A former food pantry client, Brantl said her experience with the organization and specifically the food backpack program is coming full circle.

“I’m getting the shivers now,” Brantl said as she opened the envelope presented by cantata co-directors Jana Berndt and Kent Loken, along with co-organizer Annette Loken. “Are you kidding?”

A grand total of $12,750 was raised for the food backpack program. Since 2015, the Community Choir and Orchestra has raised a total of $27,930 for the food backpack program.

“This is an amazing amount indeed, made possible by your willingness to give wholeheartedly,” wrote Berndt and Loken to the 110 participating musicians.

“A Festive Celebration of Christmas Joy,” the December 2019 cantata, played for two near-capacity audiences at the Bremer Bank Theatre, Wahpeton. Performers and audience members included residents of Wahpeton, Breckenridge, Minnesota, and the surrounding Southern Red River Valley.

Berndt and Loken marveled at many aspects of the 2019 cantata: that the event has celebrated a quarter-century; that through its support of the food backpack program, a lasting gift endures and that each donation since 2015 has been record-breaking.

• “Breath of Heaven,” the 2015 cantata, raised $2,750

• “A Festive Celebration Christmas Joy,” the 2016 cantata (performed again in 2019), raised $3,500

• “O Holy Night,” the 2017 cantata, raised $3,930

• “One Small Child,” the 2018 cantata, raised $5,000

“These four years combined benefitted the program by $15,180, which would be the equivalent of feeding about 121 kids for an entire year,” Berndt and Loken wrote.

Several area businesses donated this year, including Doosan Bobcat, Superpumper and Proseed, Loken said.

“We have opened it up for businesses to be able to do their charitable giving and benefit the food backpack program,” he continued. “Many donors gave significantly.”

A longtime supporter also gave its assistance to the 2019 cantata and food backpack program fundraising.

“The Breckenridge United Methodist Congressional Trust Fund is providing up to $2,000 for matching donations to be made at the 2019 Community Christmas Cantata,” the church previously stated. “This donation is part of the Breckenridge United Methodist Trust Fund’s ‘Mission of Outreach to the Community.’”

Cantata organizers are hopeful that other companies will consider creating fund-matching opportunities with future events.

“Our hearts are filled with joy when we think about the number of children and families in Richland and Wilkin counties that have been blessed by your giving,” Berndt and Loken wrote. “Through this program, 315 children in the two counties receive a bag of food every week.”

The Richland Wilkin Food Pantry is located at 699 Eighth Ave. S. in Wahpeton. For more information, call 701-642-1921 or visit Facebook.

Students to show off their hard work

Breckenridge Public Schools is inviting the community to attend the Student Showcase highlighting students’ projects.

This event will be held from 5-8:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 at Breckenridge High School. From 5-7:15 p.m., grades 5-12 will showcase their work throughout the school. After the showcase, a college and career roundtable discussion will be held.

High School Principal Craig Peterson said the event is a great opportunity for the community to look at the students’ work as well for parents and students to gain an insight into what colleges and employers are seeking.

“The community is going to be able to see the great work the students are doing,” Peterson said. “Our students get to showcase what they have been working on all semester.”

North Dakota State University Director of the Counseling Center Bill Burns, North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Associate Professor Steven Johnson, NDSCS Vice President of Student Affairs Jane Vangsness Frisch, WCCO Belting Tom Shorma and Southern Valley Economic Development Authority Executive Director Justin Neppl are expected to be at the roundtable discussion.

Those professionals will be discussing 21st-century skills students need, mental effects on college and career and what colleges and businesses are looking for in a future student and/or employee. Students, parents and community members are welcome to participate in asking questions.

“Colleges are beginning to look more at the content related skills versus the A students,” Peterson said. “They are looking at kids who can solve problems and do different things. There is a college dropout rate of almost 40-50 percent in freshmen students in their first semester. It’s not because they can’t do it academically. It’s about the agency skills that we talk about at our school. The grit, resilience, stick-with-it-ness, being a team player, asking for help, the ability to provide and receive feedback.”

This is the second year that the school has held the student showcase. However, it will be the first year the school will be holding a college and career roundtable discussion. Last year, the school was recognized for the uniqueness and creativity of this event.

“I am excited to see what is in store and to see what kind of projects and work our students and staff have come up with,” Peterson said.

There will also be a free community meal from 5-6:30 p.m., including a baked potato bar and chili. A donate of $3 is suggested.

For more information, contact the high school at 218-643-2694.

4 Things to Know Today

1. Celebrate Your Love Bridal Show: The wedding fair runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Wahpeton Event Center. Tickets are $10 at the door. Refreshments provided.

2. Minn. soldier found dead on base: Pvt. Connor J. McGurran, 19, of Owatonna, Minnesota, was found dead at a South Carolina training base Wednesday morning. Life-saving measures were taken by his unit, and he was taken to the hospital but couldn’t be revived.

3. This Day in History: In 1901, the Spindletop oil field was discovered in Beaumont, Texas, leading to the Texas Oil Boom. Read more about it on A3.

4. Murder suspect arrested: A Canadian man who was wanted in the killing of a Bismarck man last week has been arrested. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers arrested Earl Howard, 41, of Belwood, Ontario Thursday. The victim was 42-year-old Chad Entzel who was found inside a home in Bismarck with a gunshot wound to the head after authorities responded to a house fire last week. The victim’s wife is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in his death.

Port Authority finalizes lease

The Breckenridge Port Authority finalized a lease with the company Flight of Pietas for the old Dairy Queen on Highway 75 at its Wednesday, Jan. 8 meeting. The board closed its purchase of the building on Dec. 16, 2016.

The board approved the resolution of this lease of the property as well as an option for the sale of that property in the future.

The resolution states that the company will lease the property beginning Jan. 15 and will remain in place for 12 months at a rent of $1,000 per month. Additionally, the company desires to purchase the property thereafter. Half of the rent will go towards the future purchase of the building.

The company is responsible for the cost and expense of renovating the property. Such renovations previously discussed were remediation of mold and fixing the roof.

The city’s legal administrative secretary, Liane Mauch, confirmed that the company is affiliated with the Bruders’ Butcher Shop that is expected to open in the old Dairy Queen upon renovations.

In early November 2019, the board approved a recommendation to Breckenridge City Council to approve a $75,000 Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) loan to the owner of Bruders’ Butcher with the intention of opening a butcher shop in the old Dairy Queen building. The recommendation was shortly-after approved by the council. The MIF loan will go towards renovations and other costs associated with opening a butcher shop in town.

“What you’re doing in the resolution is that you have held the public hearing that is required by state law, you are making it binding that it is in the interest of the board and the community to move forward with the lease and the possible subsequent sale of the property to the tenant,” City Attorney Chris Hood said.

In other news, Building Official Joel Hoistad presented photos of Stop-n-Go to the board. Photos showed items that were left behind from the previous owner such as coolers, coffee filters, stoves and file cabinets.

The board explored options to clear out the building that would allow for a future business to come in. One option was to auction off items that would be able to be reused. Ultimately, the board decided to advertise for individuals to offer a price that would cover the purchasing of everything inside the building.

The board additionally approved to advertise with the Daily News for their upcoming 2020 Profile on the provision that Breckenridge Public Utilities would be able to assist in covering partial advertising costs.

“I’m here today representing the Daily News as we are seeking advertisers to support our Profile 2020 and Southern Valley Living Magazine. These publications will be inserted in the Daily News and News Monitor. Our subscribers enjoy reading these publications and the businesses who advertise in our projects show their your commitment to community,” Daily News Advertising Manager Diana Hermes said.

The next Port Authority meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the Breckenridge City Hall.

Christian Ehlert is a student in Jennifer Shockley’s second grade class at St. John’s School.